My last post left off at the Peel River ferry. I set out the next morning. I make a short stop in Fort McPherson to get fuel, then carried on. The road between Fort McPherson and Tsiigehtchic was uninteresting. Flat with lots of trees.
As the road approached Tsiigehtchic, I was treated to a wonderful view of the Mackenzie River, with the edge of the town above. The image below has an incredible amount of depth in it. Those cliffs are pretty big.
There was a ferry here to cross the river. It was a bit bigger than the others…but at this point the Mackenzie is a big river.
Driving back into the bush, I left the Mackenzie behind. Although later in the day, I hiked a short trail from the road to a lookout point with great views of the massive river.
Otherwise, day 3’s drive was uninteresting. It was mostly straight and flat..surrounded by trees. And very rough. In many cases 50 kph was too fast. The road surface was so uneven and potholed that the Jeep could easily start bouncing and lose traction. Everyone else was going really slow on this stretch too…
I arrived in Inuvik that afternoon and decided to stay the night rather than push through to Tuk the same day. So I had some time to wander through Inuvik and experience it a bit. It is interesting at this point that because of the permafrost, all buildings are built on stilts to keep the heat away from the ground. Even the big buildings are on stilts. Also, all the towns utilities are above ground and come to each building via set of pipes that run behind everything…all over the city.
Until recently, Inuvik used to be the end of the road…as far as you could go. Last year they opened a new, all season road to Tuktoyaktuk, which is right on the Arctic Ocean. Aside from the ocean part, Inuvik would have been an anti-climactic way to end. The last bit of road into Inuvik is treed and boring.
But that’s not where it ends anymore.
The next morning I set out for Tuk. They weren’t super creative with naming this road. It’s just the Inuvik Tuktoyaktuk Highway, or ITH for short. They also are kind of lacking an official sign for it, so maybe it will be renamed at some point…
So far the weather had cooperated. But the clouds were rolling in. The whole drive the warmest I saw was 12 degrees. 7 degrees was more normal….and this is August.
Almost right away, the columns of spruce trees were gone. Replaced by short aspens….which very quickly gave way to clumps of stunted trees…and then nothing but short ground cover.
As I got out of the trees, something amazing came into view. The colours!! I’ve heard it said that Arctic fall can rival the best of Ontario….and oh, it can! The reds are unbelievable! Parts of it kind of looked like desert…but with such a lush, amazing foliage.
The experience of the road is also different. The best way I can describe it is: a feeling of driving on the horizon. Maybe it’s because it’s quite flat, or maybe it’s the knowledge that it’s the top of the world, or it might be the raised highway. Either way, there is something different about driving this highway.
As I approached Tuk, there were a lot more lakes and larger bodies of water. Also, for some reason the colours dimmed a bit closer to the ocean.
Another feature that started showing up were Pingos. They are rounded mounds of ice covered in ground cover…some are quite large. They form from lakes that drain and then freeze underneath, causing a mound of ice to heave upward. I can’t say I fully understand the process…but it is a truly unique land form that you can only see by road here in Canada.
Unfortunately it had been spitting rain throughout the day, and as I neared Tuk it was raining. But that’s a story for another time. Keep an eye out for a new blog entry on Tuktoyaktuk!